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This Priest Was Called To Comfort A Family That Lost Their Father. It Was His Own Dad.

April 17, 2014

Thomas VanderWoude sacrificed his life to save his son, the priest’s youngest brother, who has Down syndrome, after he fell into a septic tank on the family’s farm.

But what his children have to say about their dad, and how he lived his life every single day, will leave you with tears in your eyes, and a desire to live more like him. According to them, the way he died was just in keeping with the way he lived: for others, and not himself. 

Let’s honor Thomas Vanderwoude by spreading his story far and wide. 

Father of priest behind Down syndrome adoption story died while saving Down syndrome son

by John Stonestreet

  • Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:20 ESTEarlier this month, Fr. Vander Woude got wind of a young couple in another state whose unborn child had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The couple made the decision close to ninety percent of parents in their shoes make—to abort their special needs baby. Because the pregnancy was almost six months along, they had just days before the legal cutoff for abortions in their state. But Father Vander Woude had other ideas.The next morning, the calls and emails began—over 900, in fact—some from as far away as England and The Netherlands, ready to make the life-changing decision to adopt a special needs child. As the torrent subsided, three of the families were placed in contact with the expectant parents and an adoption agency for interviews.You would think this outpouring of love and acceptance for a child nine out of ten American couples consider unworthy of life would impress pro-choicers—especially those who repeat the tired accusation that pro-lifers care only about children in the womb, not after they’re born.“[A]nti-abortion folks,” she cedes, “care more about fetuses with fairytale narratives than actual babies.”But this particular accusation that Father Vander Woude and his Twitter followers care nothing about older children with Down syndrome rings especially hollow. You see, this priest isn’t the first person in his own family to snatch a victim of Down syndrome from certain death.It seems Fr. Vander Woude, who officiated his dad’s funeral, inherited a pro-life view that is not just intellectually true, but one of action. His father would be proud.This story also reveals how we might hope to return what Pope Benedict called a “culture of death” to a “culture of life.” It requires doing and saying. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote to his former seminarians, “Not in the flight of ideas, but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of the living.” by

  • Man Drowns Saving Son with Down Syndrome

  • Fr. Vander Woude and his father have both given some of those with “fairy tale narratives” a chance at a real happy ending.

  • The groundswell of families who responded to this plea for adoption are putting feet to their pro-life views, while at the same time showing how wildly out-of-touch with reality abortion apologists have become.

  • His father, Thomas, Sr., died in 2008 after leaping into a septic tank to save his youngest son, Joseph, who had fallen in. According to sources at the time, Thomas, 66, allowed himself to sink beneath the sewage while holding 20-year-old Joseph above his head until rescuers arrived. Joseph has Down syndrome. His father died so that his special needs son would live.

  • Folks, these charges are simply ridiculous, especially now that pregnancy care centers designed to offer help and create options for women and children in crisis outnumber abortion clinics in the United States almost 2-to-1, and with so many families lining up to adopt.

  • Well, I’m sad to say pro-abortion activists at the blog Jezebel wasted no time in heaping scorn on Father Vander Woude and the hundreds who responded to his call. One Jezebel blogger accused him of pressuring this woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy by “crowdsourcing an adoptive family.”

  • Tom Vander Woude Sr. died while saving his son, who has Down syndrome.

  • He contacted the parents and convinced them to hold off just a little longer, while he and a volunteer sent messages via the church’s social network accounts, pleading for a family willing to adopt the baby and save its life.

  • July 23, 2013 (Breakpoint) – Fr. Thomas Vander Woude, pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, Virginia, has a special place in his heart for children born with Down syndrome. His recent parish campaign to save one such life grabbed headlines. But to understand this story, and why these children are so special to Fr. Vander Woude, you need to know another story. This one blew me away.

  • Fri Sep 12, 2008 11:15 EST

  • By Kathleen Gilbert

  • 66-year-old Thomas VanderWoude and his 20-year-old son Joseph, who has Down syndrome and who is the youngest of seven sons, were working in their yard in Nokesville, VA when Joseph fell through a septic tank cover that had suddenly collapsed.  VanderWoude immediately jumped in after his son and managed to hold his son’s head above the surface, saving his life. VanderWoude’s son Joseph was in critical condition at Prince William hospital as he fought infection for several days, but recently began to improve.A retired Navy pilot and Vietnam veteran who was still “in great shape,” VanderWoude coached basketball and soccer at Seton School in Manassas and, until recently, when one of his sons took over the job, served as athletic director at Christendom College in Front Royal.  Anne Carroll, Director of Seton School and longtime friend of the VanderWoudes, said the sacrifice Tom made for his son matched his reputation for generosity.  President of Christendom College Dr. Timothy O’Donnell attributed the bravery of VanderWoude, a Catholic who attended Mass daily, in part to his intense faith.  In an interview with LifeSiteNews O’Donnell recalled the gospel reading of the day following the incident to explain how VanderWoude’s extraordinary sacrifice was entirely of a piece with his vibrant faith.  The gospel recounted the names of the twelve Apostles whom, O’Donnell says, the world remembers today precisely “because they gave their life for Jesus Christ.”Friends say that father and son had always been very close.  “They really were inseparable,” noted O’Donnell.”Oftentimes I would see these two, walking and talking as if there were nothing else in the world. I noticed his face was lit up each time his son was rattling about his thoughts. He loved his son dearly.”

  • To donate to Thomas VanderWoude’s memorial fund to help wife Mrs. Mary Ellen VanderWoude and son Joseph, send checks made out to the “VanderWoude Trust Fund” to:

  • Holy Trinity Parish

  • 8213 Linton Hall Raod

  • Gainesville, VA 20155


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